SEO is dead.
When it comes to digital marketing, this might be one of the trendiest things to say right now.
The ever-changing digital landscape is usually cited as proof of this, with people claiming that SEO simply "doesn't work" today. The average consumer is just unwilling to believe in anything that doesn't have social proof.
Let's get one thing straight: not all SEO strategies are created equal. Unsophisticated SEO strategies are essentially the search engine equivalent of spam. Keyword stuffing, conspicuous commenting and page swapping are known as "black hat" SEO techniques that will likely get your website banned from Google.
But then there's another kind of SEO strategy in the industry. The kind that enhances the consumer experience by addressing their needs and giving them the answers they're looking for.
That SEO (which we'll just refer to as "sophisticated SEO" from now on) is still very much alive, and just about every business on the planet can benefit from that kind of digital marketing.
While most business owners have a general understanding of SEO strategy, implementing this one particular technique can make your business easier to find than ever before.
Backlinks: The Cornerstone of SEO
Sophisticated SEO is built around the idea that connecting to an audience is no longer about who has the loudest voice. Rather, the focus is on determining what your audience needs and creating a resource for them.
Basic SEO strategy tells us that consumers want the answers to their questions in the shortest amount of time possible. One of the more prominent ways that search engines determine the most reliable sites is by taking a look at how many backlinks your website has.
A backlink is essentially just a link from someone else's website to your own. Simple, right? Well, it might seem like that at first glance. In reality, determining which backlinks to target is where most businesses struggle.
One of the defining characteristics of an unsophisticated SEO strategy is the inefficient use of backlinks. In fact, a recent study by Moz found that links have one of the strongest associations with higher rankings through search engines. Master the backlink and you'll have quite the advantage in the digital marketplace.
Picking the Best Backlinks
When you're adding backlinks to your site, you should be extremely selective about what ends up on your site. Focus on actually providing tangible value with your links.
Generally speaking, a backlink should be from a reputable, reliable source. Generally speaking, you want to be aiming for authorities in your particular industry. Here's an example: If you're creating an article on building a business, do your best to reach out to venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and start-up bloggers whom your readers will readily identify as influential and ask for a link.
The idea here is to save the average consumer the hassle of putting all this information together. Create a website that accumulates all the critical information about their question and lets them draw their own conclusions. Beyond that, take the time to create a content marketing strategy that attracts backlinks to meaningful content. Visual content marketing, including infographics and videos, is great for entertaining, engaging and educating potential customers.
Outside of only considering what websites and influencers to target for backlinks, ask yourself: are people going to be happy they found my website or upset that they were misled? The moment you try to trick people into coming to your site, your SEO strategy is already on its last leg.
SEO strategies (and backlinking, specifically) are supposed to be about getting your audience the simplest, most informed answer to their question. Never forget that high-quality websites and content get shared organically. Your priority should be creating an environment that supports your audience's growth. The moment you deviate from that mission statement, your SEO strategy will become gimmicky, deceitful and ineffective. Don't sacrifice your long-term growth to be on the first page of Google for a few weeks. SEO is a long-game built on relevant backlinks from reputable sites.